Space travel, not just to orbit, but to the Moon and Mars, could soon become an ordinary event.
A group of scientists from the UK in their new study proposes to make space travel much cheaper, greener and faster. It is only necessary to create a space elevator – a special lift, with the help of which the space capsule will deliver people and cargo not only to orbit, but also to the Moon and Mars using special cables. In order for this design to withstand all the loads, scientists propose to create it from graphene, a material one atom thick. The very process of creating a space elevator may begin as early as 2037, writes Inverse.
The idea of a space elevator is not new. It was proposed back in 1895 by the famous scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. According to his idea, it is necessary to create a station in geostationary orbit, 36,000 km above the surface, which would be connected by a system of “tethers” through which cargo and people could be delivered into space.
Graphene space elevator
After 127 years, a group of scientists from the UK proposes using a supermaterial – graphene, to create a similar structure that will be a transport network between the Earth's surface and orbit, and then its capabilities can be expanded to deliver cargo and people to the Moon and Mars using special capsules.
According to study author Adrian Nixon, graphene will allow for a very strong structure and will not cost very much to produce . At the very least, the delivery of goods and people into space will cost less than using current rockets, which also pollute the atmosphere.
According to Nixon, the special capsules will travel on tethers of graphene into space to deliver cargo or people. These capsules can receive energy from the Sun or nuclear reactors, or the energy will be transmitted directly from the Earth.
Cheap and every day into space
“With the help of this space elevator, it is possible to significantly reduce the cost of delivering goods into space. It will also be possible to build rockets and space stations right in space, because all materials will be delivered there and there will be no need to create everything on Earth. For example, now the cost of launching one kilogram of useful payload to space, using modern rockets, ranges from $1,400 to $2,700, but with a space elevator, the cost of delivery will drop to a record $114,” says Nixon.
According to the scientist, the space elevator will be able to work every day, and not like rockets do, which need a certain time to launch.
For some time, carbon nanotubes were considered one of the materials from which it is possible to create a durable space elevator. But scientists have found that despite the enormous strength, over time, this material can wear out. Therefore, scientists are now proposing to create a cable for a space elevator from graphene, a supermaterial that is also based on carbon. Graphene is a two-dimensional material that consists of just one layer of atoms arranged in hexagonal lattice structures. It is believed that graphene is hundreds of times stronger than steel.
“We have explored three options as potential space tether material candidates: carbon nanotubes, graphene, and hexagonal boron nitride. This is another two-dimensional material that is almost as strong as graphene. But it is graphene that seems to us the most ideal candidate for many reasons. We estimate that the construction of a space elevator will cost $3.6 billion and there are already companies that can begin construction in 2037,” says Nixon.
According to the scientist, the new space transportation system will allow travel to space at least every day. The speed of the capsule's ascent into space will be approximately 7.76 km/s. With the help of a space elevator, it will be possible to deliver cargo and people to the Moon and Mars. According to forecasts, in this way the trip to Mars will be reduced from several years to, according to the most optimistic forecasts, 61 days. But most importantly, a trip to Mars will be possible every day, and not just every 26 months. The space elevator will also allow the creation of space stations at a distance of 30 thousand to 1.5 million km from Earth and much further.
“The space elevator is not science fiction, it is already a reality in the near future. I really hope for that this project will receive the necessary investments. Just imagine, we will be able to see this space elevator in our lifetime, “says Nixon.